Central Booking Facility in city will be high-tech
When Baltimore's new Central Booking Facility opens in early 1995, it will hold an array of high-tech systems designed to process information about suspects efficiently and get officers back on the street quickly.
Another piece fell into place this month when a Sunnyvale, Calif., company, Identix Inc., was chosen to supply equipment that will scan in fingerprints and mug shots as the first step in what's intended to be a seamless trip through the criminal justice computer systems.
"This will revolutionize the way we conduct business," said Leonard Sipes, public information director for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. "It's not a system created for a building, but a building created around a data system."
Mr. Sipes explained that the various parts of the chain -- such as law enforcement, courts and corrections -- have traditionally used multiple computer systems that, more often than not, could not talk to one another. The new system, as engineered by International Business Machines Corp. and Westinghouse Electric Corp., is being designed to make it easy for everyone in the system to share information, and to eliminate duplicated effort.
Important information will automatically be forwarded down the line. That means that when a suspect is booked in the Central Booking Facility now being built at Madison Street and the Fallsway, a file will automatically be created in the court system. And if that suspect is convicted, information on the convict would be routed into the prison system's computers and, eventually, the parole system's computers.
Identix's sales manager, Michael McGarr, said that with his company's TouchPrint system, taking fingerprints will be like making a photocopy. A digitized image of a handprint can be adjusted on-screen, with the computer generating fingerprint cards and forwarding the data to Maryland's fingerprint ID system.
The prints will automatically be compared with millions of others on file, Mr. Sipes said, reducing the chances that someone wanted in an earlier case can use an alias to get out on bail.
Similarly, Identix's DocuColor system will grab images from a small video camera, letting police generate computerized "lineups" through data-base information such as height and criminal record, thus reducing requirements for storage space.
In Maryland, Mr. Sipes said, authorities see such tactics as ways to gain efficiency in times of tight budgets. "We know that if there aren't technological solutions, there probably aren't going to be solutions at all," he said.
U.S. re-examines patent of Compton's NewMedia
The computer industry outrage that greeted the announcement by Compton's NewMedia Inc. that it had won a patent on multimedia search processes has led the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to take the unusual step of re-examining the patent.
Compton's secured the patent in August but waited until last month's Comdex trade show to publicize the fact, along with its plans for licensing rights. There was an immediate outcry, with many in the industry claiming that the patented ideas had been around for a long time.
Patent Commissioner Bruce Lehman's announcement of the review last week left International Multimedia Association Executive Director Philip V. W. Dodds "cautiously wildly optimistic."
The Annapolis-based IMA, most of whose members could be hamstrung by the patent, had opposed it last month, offering administrative and possibly legal support to its foes.
"I was very surprised, very pleased to see such a quick answer" to the industry's objections, Mr. Dodds said last week.
Although the IMA had not intervened legally, in recent weeks it had been directing its members to the Patent Office and accumulating examples of "prior art" for them to use as ammunition.
In general terms, an invention can be ruled ineligible for a patent if it can be shown that it was used or offered for sale before the patent date, or if material was published describing it, or if it was patented somewhere else in the world.
Mr. Dodds said he expected an opinion from the office in a month or two.
Whatever the outcome of this case, the strong public reaction is leading the Patent Office to study how well its policies apply to new technologies. It has scheduled hearings in January in San Jose, Calif., and Feb. 10-11 in Northern Virginia.
GEIS could suffer from Apple on-line plan
Rockville-based GE Information Services could lose out if Apple Computer Inc. follows through on reported plans to start ++ its own on-line service.
GEIS, through Genie, supports the AppleLink network, whose 50,000 large customers log on for software updates, technical support and electronic mail services, paying $37 an hour.
But last week, several West Coast publications reported that Apple would start up a consumer rendition, charging only $10 to $20 a month. The fate of AppleLink would be up in the air, the reports said.
Apple would not respond to the published reports, and no GEIS official could be reached for comment Friday.
In an unrelated announcement, GEIS said last week that it had signed up a new distributor, Transaxion S.A. of Santiago, Chile, to market its Electronic Data Interchange services, representing a new focus for the unit on Central and South America.